Accommodation: $511.00 Lattes: $378.60
Our last night in Geraldton we went to Tropcanos Restaurant (fish) - great place next to the lighthouse. The owner (originally from Manly) suggested we stay in the car park across the road rather than drive toward Kalbarri late at night. We were going to but it seemed every 10 minutes a new mob of hoons would drive their cars in, hang for a while then drive out. Didn't feel the safest place (and it was illegal so we didn't feel right about it anyway) but most importantly we found that the fridge was defrosting as we hadn't driven much the last couple of days and it had been very hot. This made the decision for us and we drove on even though we were tired. This got the better of us and we pulled over in a rest area to (illegally) camp for the night. (although technically we were resting and only there for 6 hours in total)
Friday 11th March - Fun Truck Curveball Day
Next morning we discovered that government waste is not a new thing as we toured Lynton Station Convict Depot. It ran from 1853 so local land holders could use convict labour on their farms and to build roads for the mining company. Trouble was it wasn't located in the best place with no natural water or building materials and was poorly managed. The convicts were sleeping in tents for so long the walls wore out and when there was an inspection they were made to put rocks up for walls. The canvas roof was considered OK for a few more years. Work was started on a large building to house them and this was completed in early 1856 and could have housed four times the number of prisoners that were actually stationed there. The number of prisoners never met the quota they were supposed to have but there wasn't much demand for them anyway and the whole complex closed in 1856, just 3 years after opening and 6 months after the large building was completed. We did see a fox come out of the ruins of the old lock up and found out that the heroine of "The King and I" (the real life governess to the children of the King of Siam not Julie Anthony or whoever played her - forgive me patient reader as I have no internet to check facts - was the wife of one of the overseers and lived at the Convict Depot for some time.
We decided not to bother with the historic Lynton Station homestead but saw it from the road as we drove on. That is one very impressive building so if you get the chance drop in for a look.
Closer to Kalbarri and we arrived at a coastal area with very dramatic red sandstone cliffs that contrast with the turquoise water. We visited Grandstand, Shellhouse, Rock Island (yep, it's a rock and an island) and Natural Bridge. We headed into the town to book into a caravan park as we were worried about not finding somewhere due to it being a weekend. Needn't have worried there were lots of vacant sites but since the shire doesn't allow camping outside the caravan parks we didn't want to take the chance. That afternoon we visited Eagle Gorge, Pot Alley and Mushroom Rock where Glen decided to do the whole loop track. Lucky for him Julie drove to the next headland over as he missed a turn and ended up there. The iced coffee milk went down a treat because it was very hot (a cold latte Glen thinks but Julie won't allow iced coffee milk to be included in the latte total - she's such a purist :)
Next stop Chinaman's Beach where Glen got nipped by a crab when he stood up when swimming so it was feet off the bottom the rest of the swim. After a walk along the water's edge we went back for our first shower in a few days and celebrated the event with a beer and sunset at the pub (and watched couple of quarters of footy on TV) before heading "home" for dinner.
Although it was a Friday there was no Fun Truck Curveball this week :)
Saturday 12th March Fine Feathered Friends and Gorges
One of the "must do" activities is to watch the pelican feeding. At 8:45 a full contingent of we tourists gathered expectantly and the volunteer began his spiel as his partner wandered up and down the shore with a bucket full of fish. Somebody forgot to tell the pelicans it was time for a feed as they were a no show. Wild kids and animals are something you should avoid working with if you want predictable. Glen was ready to call it early but Julie was too polite to be the first to leave. We seem to have issues with wildlife being a no show after the Orcas, although… Julie has a knack of finding snakes lol.
We had intended to go to the gorges in the National Park next but as it was already hot we changed our plans and went first to Rainbow Jungle Parrot Breeding Facility. Basically it's a few parrots in cages that also happen to breed but it was enjoyable, particularly the walk in aviary where there are lots of beautiful birds all around at a good height to see and photograph as they perch in the bushes.
After a coffee and a muffin we drove into the Kalbarri National Park to see the gorges carved out by the mighty Murchison River. The river we saw was a series of billabongs as although the catchment area is larger than Tasmania there hadn't been a great deal of rain along it's 700km length. The gorges were spectacular, the flies thick and the temperature oppressive. Luckily Glen had decided he wasn't up for a 6 or 8km walk as the heat had us guzzling water at a great rate of knots. Signs warn that people have died and that it can be up to 10 degrees hotter in the gorges. We did 4 lookouts and finished with Natures Window 1.4km return and Julie was really feeling the heat so we decided to leave the rest of the gorges until the next day and go back to town for a swim.
Not unusually we got side tracked on the way back and went past Murchison Home Station towards the river. First turn off required 4wd but we got to the river and found that here it was flowing and full of fish. Julie contemplated wetting a line but we settled for airing down and exploring further along the river. We eventually ended up in town following the river.
Sunday 13th March Moving on
We packed up in the morning and left Kalbarri with the intention of checking out the last of the gorges. We arrived at Ross Graham Lookout where there is a walk to the river. From the lookout the water looked wonderful so we headed off down the track even though it was quite warm and we were only wearing thongs (on out feet). Ross Graham was the local school headmaster with a passion for the park. He died at just 32 years old and the lookout honours his memory. At the bottom there was no water, just a rock crossing. Downstream was the large inviting pool we saw from above so Glen went upstream to find water, he did and lots of small fish too. Julie stayed taking photos and met two doctors from Bankstown Hospital. They were on their way home to England via WA and South America. The warm day was taking it's toll on Julie by the time she reached the top. It was going to be another day for guzzling water.
Back on the road and once again it was so hot that the air conditioning had to be turned off again to lessen the chance of us boiling over. We are listening to the talking book The Mailman of the Birdsville Track as we drive. The air conditioned Billabong Roadhouse was a welcome stop for lunch and to add to the latte total. Not far north of that we turned off for the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive. We decided to skip the stromatolites at Hamlin Bay and do them on the way out. We did stop at Shell Beach, where billions of small cockle shells are the beach. The shells are up to 10m deep in places, extend over 12 kilometres and in the course of time have pushed the coastline out 200m.
The water is very salty, which allows the cockles and stromatolites to survive because not much else can.
We camped at Goulet Bluff, no facilities but a wonderful view of the ocean. It's the other (Western) side of the peninsula to Shell Beach so less salty but still far more salty than we are used to "over East". In the morning (after coffee and a chat with the Ranger, Matthew, 41 from Wales been in Denham 12 years, married, past jobs included…. Lets just say in a brief time we learn quite a lot about Matthew :)… anyway, in the morning we went down to the water and saw lots of shovelnose sharks (yes we know they are actually a ray) a couple of stingrays (spotted rays I think) and a 1m shark. Matthew was terrific with suggestions of where to camp and what to see and do and gave us a National Park map. He was also quite OK that we didn't have a camping permit before we camped. We headed into Denham and paid the $15 camping fee at the information centre.
There are emus in the main street. Just walking around like they own the place. Exactly as the Americans envisage I imagine. :) We ducked into IGA to get phone credit, no Vodafone here, and came out with iced coffee milk, orange juice and 5 little bubble gum packets with nail tattoos. We went back in got a hand line, frozen bait and plastic lures. We went back in a third time and got the credit we actually went in there for!
Next stop was Ocean Park Aquarium who have a good collection of what is in the waters around Shark Bay. Nice to know what we may find before we see it in our face mask. They have an interesting way of doing the tours. Each tour lasts roughly an hour. You join whenever you get there and stay with the tour until you get back to the tank you started at. Guides just take over from each other after an hour and continue on. Really good from a tourist point of view. We started at the elegant sea snakes. Julie stood well back as Glen watched them swim around the tank and pop their head out of the water. We found that just before we arrived they found one on the ground and put it back in the tank. Apparently they don't know how it's getting out yet but since it can't move on land and breathes air it just waits to be put back. Despite being the most venomous snakes on the planet they are not aggressive and are very inquisitive and will actually swim towards divers and wrap themselves around you. We also saw stone fish, puffer fish that have been known to bite off toes with nail polish, trevally, cod, turtles and sharks up to 2.7m. Suffice to say Julie has vowed not to go in the water and is removing her toe nail polish.
We followed Matt's directions to a campsite by a fishing shack on the Eastern side of the peninsula and camped within 50m of the water of L'haridon Bight roughly half way between Monkey Mia and Shell Beach.